USDA has proposed new animal welfare standards for the National Organic Program and the deadline to comment on those standards is July 13.
The National Pork Producers Council opposes the new standards and says that, if enacted, they would present serious challenges to livestock producers.
NPPC says there are a number of problems with the proposed new organic animal welfare rules, including:
-Animal welfare is not germane to the concept of “organic.” Animal welfare is important to all producers and is not exclusive to organic production.
-Organic has pertained to foods produced without synthetic pesticides, antibiotics, synthetic fertilizers, genetically modified organisms or growth hormones. The Organic Food Production Act of 1990 limited its coverage of livestock to feeding and medication practices. Some of the proposed standards, such as requiring outdoor access and, for pigs, allowing for rooting behavior, conflict with other tenants of organic production such as environmental stewardship.
-Consumer confusion about the meaning of “organic” should not drive rulemaking; consumer education campaigns should address any confusion.
-Current organic producers have designed their enterprises around existing organic standards. The new requirements may make it cost-prohibitive to retrofit operations to come into compliance and may reduce the number of organic producers.
-The proposed standards, many of which run counter to best management practices used to protect animal health and the environment, could be a barrier to new producers entering organic production.
-The proposed standards are rigid, inflexible and not science-based; they will not allow organic producers the flexibility to respond to new housing and handling systems that may be developed to enhance animal welfare.
-The standards are based on public perception of what is good animal welfare and do not reflect a consensus by experts in animal welfare and handling.
-Producers need flexibility to make animal welfare decisions based on the needs and challenges of their particular animals, facilities and customer preferences. A one-size-fits-all approach eliminates that flexibility.
-Livestock industry and other animal welfare programs are available and suitable for use by organic producers.
-The World Animal Health Organization (OIE), of which the United States is a member, sets international animal welfare standards and has not yet issued a chapter on pigs. It is premature to put any welfare practices into the Code of Federal Regulations since they may conflict with the international standards now under development.
Related: Organic livestock standards proposed